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Azerbaijan Beats Russia, Takes Lead In Crete
Azerbaijan, on their way to gold!? | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Azerbaijan Beats Russia, Takes Lead In Crete

With a convincing 3-1 score Azerbaijan beat Russia today, and took a big step towards gold at the European Team Championship in Greece. Ukraine beat Hungary and is now tied for second place with Russia.

It was the clash everyone had been waiting for: top seed Russia vs second seed Azerbaijan—the battle that would likely decide this year's championship. Russia had given Nikita Vitiugov some rest while Azerbijan left out Gadir Guseinov, who hasn't played since round two.

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Players arriving for the match of the tournament. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

By rating these teams were extremely close, so the relatively big score with which Azerbaijan managed to win came as a surprise. What it comes down to is two highly experienced players being in great shape on boards one and two, and someone who has made steady progress in the last few years doing great on board four.

Bo. 1 Russia Rtg - 2 Azerbaijan Rtg 1-3
1/1 GM Grischuk, Alexander (w) 2785 - GM Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar (b) 2791 0 - 1
1/2 GM Nepomniachtchi, Ian (b) 2733 - GM Radjabov, Teimour (w) 2741 0 - 1
1/3 GM Matlakov, Maxim (w) 2730 - GM Naiditsch, Arkadij (b) 2702 1 - 0
1/4 GM Dubov, Daniil (b) 2677 - GM Mamedov, Rauf (w) 2678 0 - 1

Starting with board one, we saw Shakhriyar Mamedyarov playing a (very) early ...g7-g5 in a Ruy Lopez against Alexander Grischuk. Can you do that? Yes, these days you can get away with almost anything!

The position after 6...g5!?

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Nepomniachtchi checking Grischuk's board when 6...g5 has been played. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Only three games with this move can be found in the database in fact. It was once introduced by the great Hungarian grandmaster Lajos Portisch in a game against Viktor Kortchnoi, back in 1968(!) in Wijk aan Zee. Portisch won that game (as Kortchnoi blundered a piece early on), and Mamedyarov did too today. A splendid game from the Azerbaijani.

"Inspiring! Daring game! Mamedyarov! Team Azerbaijan!" was Dejan Bojkov's comment. 

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Grischuk and Mamedyarov exchanging thoughts, with team captain Eltaj Safarli in between. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Teimour Radjabov profited from a big mistake by Ian Nepomniachtchi, who missed a nasty tactic. The game had been more or less balanced, with Black sacrificing a pawn but getting the bishop pair in return. White's passed c-pawn looked dangerous, but was held under lock and key by Black. Until he gave up control of the blockading square for a moment...

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Top GMs and good friends Teimour Radjabov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov have reason to smile today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Rauf Mamedov's game deserves to be included here as well. Oh my, what is this guy getting strong lately! He showed amazing opening preparation (another reminder that he is working with Alexander Khalifman!) as well as good technique:

Early losses to the Netherlands and Turkey meant that Ukraine didn't seem to be playing for medals this year. However, by winning four matches in a row they are suddenly tied for second place with Russia, with even a small chance for gold.

Bo. 7 Hungary Rtg - 3 Ukraine Rtg 1½-2½
2/1 GM Leko, Peter (w) 2679 - GM Eljanov, Pavel (b) 2720 ½ - ½
2/2 GM Erdos, Viktor (b) 2624 - GM Kryvoruchko, Yuriy (w) 2692 ½ - ½
2/3 GM Rapport, Richard (w) 2686 - GM Ponomariov, Ruslan (b) 2687 ½ - ½
2/4 GM Almasi, Zoltan (b) 2707 - GM Kravtsiv, Martyn (w) 2677 0 - 1

The match saw a funny situation during the opening phase, with boards one and two reaching exactly the same position until White's 10th move. Both eventually ended in a draw.

The position in both Leko-Eljanov and Kryvoruchko-Erdos.

The match was decided on board four where Martyn Kravtsiv beat Zoltan Almasi, who more or less collapsed in the middlegame:

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Martyn Kravtsiv (left) would win the match for Ukraine today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Three more countries kept hopes alive for a medal: Croatia, Germany, and Turkey. These countries are now tied for fourth place with 11 match points, one less than Russian and Ukraine and two less than Azerbaijan.

Bo. 5 Israel Rtg - 9 Germany Rtg 1-3
3/1 GM Gelfand, Boris (w) 2737 - GM Nisipeanu, Liviu-Dieter (b) 2672 ½ - ½
3/2 GM Rodshtein, Maxim (b) 2699 - GM Meier, Georg (w) 2655 0 - 1
3/3 GM Sutovsky, Emil (w) 2683 - GM Fridman, Daniel (b) 2626 ½ - ½
3/4 GM Smirin, Ilia (b) 2635 - GM Svane, Rasmus (w) 2595 0 - 1

On board three a young Germany was too strong for the experienced Israeli. Georg Meier's win vs Maxim Rodshtein was remarkably smooth and a true Catalan (k)nightmare for Black. 

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Georg Meier won straightforward game vs Maxim Rodshtein. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Ilya Smirin has played the King's Indian for decades, but due to a tactical oversight he still lost in just 26 moves to Rasmus Svane. The 20-year-old, Danish-born grandmaster has scored 5.5/7 so far, good for a 2762 performance rating!

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Smirin resigns his game with Svane. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Bo. 10 Netherlands Rtg - 18 Turkey Rtg 1½-2½
4/1 GM Giri, Anish (w) 2762 - GM Solak, Dragan (b) 2626 ½ - ½
4/2 GM Bok, Benjamin (b) 2611 - GM Yilmaz, Mustafa (w) 2633 ½ - ½
4/3 GM Sokolov, Ivan (w) 2603 - GM Can, Emre (b) 2604 0 - 1
4/4 GM Van Foreest, Jorden (b) 2609 - GM Sanal, Vahap (w) 2549 ½ - ½

Turkey pulled off a small upset by beating the Netherlands 2.5-1.5. With three boards ending in draws, it was Emre Can got claimed the two match points as he outplayed Ivan Sokolov as Black. This Catalan went much less smooth for White than Meier's...

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Emre Can, successful vs Ivan Sokolov today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Bo. 12 France Rtg - 14 Croatia Rtg 1½-2½
5/1 GM Bauer, Christian (w) 2647 - GM Saric, Ivan (b) 2662 1 - 0
5/2 GM Gharamian, Tigran (b) 2626 - GM Bosiocic, Marin (w) 2619 0 - 1
5/3 GM Fressinet, Laurent (w) 2657 - GM Stevic, Hrvoje (b) 2616 ½ - ½
5/4 GM Maze, Sebastien (b) 2614 - GM Martinovic, Sasa (w) 2565 0 - 1

Croatia started very well, then lost to both Hungary and Russia but today they recovered well with a 2.5-1.5 win over France. Let's look at two games from this match. First, Christian Bauer's stunning 13th move. Would you even have looked at it? Let alone play it?

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Christian Bauer playing 4.Bg5 in the Exchange Slav. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Sebastien Maze is probably still thinking what on earth happened to him. 26-year-old Sasa Martinovic blew him off the board completely in an Nimzo-Indian where White basically got a free attack.

ETCC 2017 | Standings After Round 8

Rk. SNo Fed Team + = - TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4 TB5
1 2 Azerbaijan 6 1 1 13 172,5 23 130 107
2 1 Russia 6 0 2 12 167 19 146,5 104,5
3 3 Ukraine 6 0 2 12 155 21 130,5 95
4 9 Germany 4 3 1 11 165 20 131 89,5
5 18 Turkey 5 1 2 11 134 18 134,5 91,5
6 14 Croatia 5 1 2 11 130 16 142 95,5
7 7 Hungary 4 2 2 10 170,5 19 145,5 84,25
8 15 Spain 3 4 1 10 135,5 18 144 87,5
9 5 Israel 4 2 2 10 128,5 17,5 134,5 81,75
10 4 England 3 4 1 10 128,5 17,5 131 81,5
11 20 Romania 4 2 2 10 123,5 18 139 82
12 8 Poland 3 3 2 9 149 17,5 140,5 77,75
13 6 Armenia 3 3 2 9 142,5 17 148 78,75
14 10 Netherlands 4 1 3 9 142 17,5 140,5 78
15 16 Belarus 4 1 3 9 137,5 18,5 132 69,25
16 12 France 4 1 3 9 131,5 17,5 137 73,5
17 21 Slovenia 4 1 3 9 115 18 127 63
18 22 Italy 3 2 3 8 128,5 14 148 73,5
19 19 Greece 1 4 0 4 8 123,5 18,5 119 48,5
20 11 Czech Republic 3 2 3 8 115 16,5 137,5 61,75
21 17 Serbia 3 2 3 8 110,5 18,5 120 54
22 29 Greece 2 2 4 2 8 107 15,5 126,5 59,25
23 28 Slovakia 2 4 2 8 96,5 15,5 123,5 57,5
24 26 Switzerland 3 2 3 8 89,5 16,5 114 52
25 13 Georgia 3 1 4 7 113,5 16,5 131 52
26 25 Norway 3 1 4 7 99,5 15,5 121,5 51,25
27 32 Finland 3 1 4 7 85,5 12,5 133 56,25
28 23 Austria 3 1 4 7 70,5 13 136,5 47,75
29 39 Greece - Crete 2 3 3 7 56,5 12,5 113,5 44
30 24 Moldova 2 2 4 6 89,5 13,5 130 44
31 31 Denmark 3 0 5 6 87,5 15 117,5 36,5
32 27 Iceland 3 0 5 6 84 14 127 40,5
33 33 FYROM 2 2 4 6 75 15 108 40
34 34 Portugal 3 0 5 6 72,5 13,5 116 34,5
35 35 Faroe Islands 2 2 4 6 68,5 14,5 107,5 34
36 30 Montenegro 2 1 5 5 54,5 12,5 116 26,25
37 40 Scotland 2 1 5 5 48 10,5 115,5 32,25
38 37 Albania 2 0 6 4 54,5 12 110 20,5
39 36 Belgium 1 1 6 3 59 11,5 110 18,25
40 38 Kosovo* 1 0 7 2 43,5 10 105 11,5

Top pairings for the final round: Azerbaijan-Ukraine, Germany-Russia, Turkey-Croatia, England-Hungary,  Spain-Romania, Belarus-Israel.

Download Tournament PGN

Games from TWIC.


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